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Friday, May 27, 2011

BBQ Pulled Pork

I had a request on my Facebook Page for a Pulled Pork Recipe. Since I never made it before, I wanted to try it out myself before sharing it with all of you. I'm not a huge fan of BBQ Sauce, which is why I added some honey to cut down the tartness of the flavor, but I had one of my guinea pigs (a.k.a. my husband and nephew) taste it and it was a hit!  I also tried it myself and it was pretty darn good.

BBQ Pulled Pork(Serves 6-8)
1 1/2-2 lb. Pork Tenderloin
1-12oz. Can Birch Beer (or Root Beer)
1 Tbsp. Dried Minced Onion
2 Cups Prepared Kraft Original BBQ Sauce
1/2 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Water
1 Tbsp.Garlic Powder

Put the pork in a slow cooker on low heat for 6-7 hours. Sprinkle with dried minced onion, add Birch Beer and let simmer on low heat for 6-7 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours.  Drain the liquid. Using a fork, pull apart the pork tenderloin until it's shredded. Add BBQ sauce, honey, water and garlic powder and mix together. Put mixture into an oven safe baking dish and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes to help evaporate the excess liquid. Serve alone or on rolls. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Do you have Celiac Disease?

I don't. And I know this because I was tested for it several years ago. Blood tests that measure your body's response to gluten, ordered by your physician, are the first step towards diagnosis. Approximately 1 out of 133 Americans suffer from this disease every day. Astonishing! For those of you not familiar with the disease, it means that you have a gluten intolerance. For instance, that pizza my kids want for dinner tonight? A person suffering from Celiac wouldn't be able to have any. 

May is National Celiac Awareness Month and since I won't be cooking dinner tonight (and we still have some time before May is over) I thought I'd educate you a little bit on the disease. We, as a whole nation, tend to take food (or people or things, don't get me started) for granted until something affects someone you know's human nature I guess. 

Several years ago I was having gastrointestinal issues and this was one of the tests they gave me to rule it out. While waiting for results, I started doing some reading on the subject, only to find that if I did have this disease, I'd be in REALLY big trouble..Hello Carb Queen coming through! Once I was cleared, I really didn't give it much thought again until one of my oldest and dearest friends' daughter was diagnosed with this disease. She was in town visiting, and we were making plans to get together with the kids. Since it was around lunchtime, I was trying to figure out what I would make. Now, with my own kids, I'd just make them a sandwich or some macaroni and cheese or even throw in some chicken nuggets into the oven, but then I realized that my little friend wouldn't be able to eat that. So, out I ventured to my local supermarket, only to find that their gluten-free section was practically non-existent! 

According to U.S. News and World Report, nearly 15%-25% of consumers report looking for gluten-free products. Continuing growth in the gluten-free food industry is expected to continue, reaching $2.6 billion by 2012. That got me thinking about how hard it must be to live a gluten-free life where everything you eat could potentially make you sick. Forget about going out to dinner! I don't know how they do it. Just one dip in all-purpose flour vs. a gluten-free version could send some people running for the bathroom!

If you suffer from Celiac Disease, you can not eat any products containing wheat, barley, rye, and additives containing these ingredients. Those who are gluten-free eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, meats, beans, and legumes. Nuts and most dairy products are naturally gluten-free, and safe for people who do not have allergies to these food groups. Most people go undiagnosed, sometimes for many years. What does this mean? No bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc. or it could make you very sick.

There are a variety of alternatives that naturally do not contain gluten such as: Almond meal flour, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Coconut flour, Corn, Cornstarch, Guar Gum, Pea Flour, Potatoes, Potato Flour, Quinoa, Rice, Sorghum flour, Soy flour and White rice flour. 

Once diagnosed by your physician, a gluten-free diet is safe, and can help alleviate symptoms such as: fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, headaches (including migraines), infertility, insomnia, joint or muscle pain (which is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia), lactose intolerance, mood disorders, weight gain or loss, respiratory distress (including asthma) or skin disorders (often misdiagnosed as eczema). 

To learn more about Celiac Disease, visit the National Association for Celiac Awareness at Here you will find information including a symptoms checklist to share with your physician, training and education as well as living a gluten-free lifestyle.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pizza with Spinach Salad in a Vanilla Fig Vinaigrette

Did you ever wander into a store not expecting to buy anything? 

Well last week while I was in Home Goods shopping for some gifts, I came across some specialty vinegars from Wine Country Kitchens. Now, this was probably only my third or fourth time in the store, and I didn't realize they carried these kind of items. I was thinking that I still had some feta cheese left from the other night so I picked up a bottle of the Vanilla Fig Balsamic and thought it would be something new and different to try (and for only $6.99 a bottle it was truly a great find!) The sweetness of the vinegar, cranberries and pecans mixed with the sharp flavor of the feta made this a great salad. 

Spinach Salad with Vanilla Fig Vinaigrette
6oz. Bag of Fresh Spinach; de-stemed and washed
1/4 Cup Chopped Pecans
1/4 Cup Craisins
2 oz. Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/4 Cup Prepared Dressing(see below)

Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated. Serve chilled. 

Dressing (makes 1 cup):
1/4 Cup Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. Crushed Black Pepper

Whisk all ingredients together or store in a sealed, air tight jar and shake. 

After leaving the store and was headed back to my car, I realized I was parked in front of a Pizza place. So I stopped in, purchased a ball of dough (yes, you can do that usually at any pizza place and it was only $3 and change) and thought some pizza and salad would be a nice, quick dinner.  My kids prefer the non-traditional kind of pizza without the sauce whenever we make it at home so we opted for some fresh tomatoes and basil. You can add whatever toppings you'd like and we've even made white pizzas with ricotta cheese. 

Pizza with Beefsteak Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
1 Pizza Dough, room temperature
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
1 1/2 Beefsteak Tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 Chop Fresh Basil, chopped
2 Cups Part Skim Mozzarella, shredded 

Heat oven to 425°F. Coat a 17x11 (approx. size) cookie sheet with oil and stretch out the dough until it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Sprinkle some garlic powder over the dough. Next, add your sliced tomatoes to the top of the dough, leaving 1/4" border around all four edges. Add the basil on top of the tomatoes and then the cheese. Using a brush, lightly coat the edges with the oil. Bake in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve hot. 

*Tip: A small, inexpensive brush can be purchased at any local hardware store for under $1 if you don't have an "official" pastry brush and works just as well!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Breakfast

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." ~Washington Irving

Still haven't decided what to do for good 'ole Mom this Sunday? How about making HER breakfast! 

There is nothing better than cooking in the kitchen with your kids whether they are small, teenagers or are grown with families of their own. Don't believe me? Then why is it that at any family gathering, most people congregate in the kitchen, no matter how big or small the space is, with everyone pitching in to help in their own unique way. 

Some of the best memories I have are learning to cook with the women in my family including my own Mom, Step Mom, Aunts, Cousins and can't forget my Grandmothers! It always amazed me how seamlessly they could put a meal on the table (sometimes for 35-40 people) without getting flustered. As I grew older and had children, nieces and nephews of my own, I relish the times we've spent cooking together and teaching them what I have learned so that they will hopefully pass it down to their own families. Children are open to learning anything if you have the patience to teach them. Sure, I've had to clean up MANY messes along the way, but the bonding time spent with them was priceless. 

Don't be afraid! Frittata is just another word for a big omelet. It's the perfect way to make eggs when you have to serve a lot of people; especially on an occasion like this one. There are many ways to make this dish and if you don't like broccoli, feel free to substitute items you and your family may like better (i.e. tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms, peppers, etc). In any frittata recipe however, you cannot use a non-stick frying pan (due the fact that it will go in the oven). When it's done, the eggs are fluffy and you can either scoop them out with a spoon or cut them like you would a pie or cake in wedges; it's completely up to you. I also like to cut down on the cholesterol which is why I use eggs and egg whites, but you can use all whole eggs if you prefer. 

Broccoli and Cheese Frittata (Serves 6)
4 Large Eggs, whisked
4 Egg Whites
1 Cup Broccoli Florets;  cooked and chopped
3 Slices American Cheese, cut in pieces
Kosher Salt and Crushed Black Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large, stainless steel frying pan, generously spray bottom and sides with cooking spray.  Add eggs, egg whites, broccoli, and cheese. Using a spatula, draw the egg mixture away from the sides towards the middle until it is almost set but slightly runny in the center, about 4 minutes. Place the entire pan in the oven and cook through approximately 10-15 minutes or until all liquid has been evaporated and the mixture has 'puffed up'.

*Tip: Remove pan from the oven using a potholder, as the handle will be hot.

This next recipe came from my Canadian heritage. My Great, Great, Great Grandmother was an Iroquois Indian and married an English Soldier while stationed in Canada. After several generations of residing in Canada, my Great Grandmother lived on a farm that produced syrup and created this recipe. It's light, almost like a crepe, but thicker like a pancake. I've also substituted the all-purpose flour for wheat flour and 2% milk for the whole milk if you're looking for a healthier variation. 

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes (Serves 8)
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
3 Tbsp. Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Cups Milk
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1 tsp. Vanilla
½ Cup Fresh Blueberries

Mix the first 8 ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Gently fold in the blueberries. Heat your frying pan or griddle on medium heat. When you sprinkle a few flecks of water on your pan and the water 'dances' or jumps off the pan, then you know the pan is hot enough to cook on.  Spray the pan with cooking spray (or you can use butter) and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan. Cook for approximately 2 minutes or until the pancake starts to bubble on the top and around the edges. Flip the pancake and cook the other side until it is golden and remove.  

*Tip: Heat your syrup in a pan or in the microwave in a microwave safe carafe or pitcher before pouring over your pancakes!

I had never cooked with Linguica until I met and married my husband, whose father happens to be Portuguese. Linguica is a form of Portuguese cured pork sausage, seasoned with garlic and paprika. When you're looking for a little 'heat' in your food, this will do the trick! However, it's a little difficult to find in the North Jersey area. The BEST Linguica we've found comes from Fall River, MA,  so when we head up there we always remember to bring a cooler to stock up on some to keep in the freezer. (When cooking with Linguica or Chorizo, which is the Spanish version, remember it is only partially cooked during the curing process, so you must cook it before eating it!)

Linguica and Potatoes (Serves 8)
3/4 lb. Linguica, remove casing and chop into 1/4" rounds
8 Russet Potatoes
1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
Kosher Salt, to taste

First, cook your potatoes. This process can be done up to 2 days beforehand.  
In a large pot, add potatoes, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.(If the skins start to peel away from the potato, they are probably done.) Drain the hot water and add cold water to the pot to bring down the temperature of the cooked potatoes. You may need to do this 2-3 times. Once cooled enough that you can handle them, carefully peel away and discard the skin of the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into 1-2” chunks. 

In a large frying pan, add oil, linguica and onions over medium heat. Saute the until the onions start to become translucent and the linguica starts to get slightly browned. Add potatoes to the mixture and mix together. Cook for approximately 1/2 hour stirring occasionally until potatoes become slightly browned.

*Tip: If you prefer your potatoes a little more browned and well done, you may need to gradually add a little more oil.

Here is a slight twist on the regular Mimosa. I prefer pineapple juice to orange juice and this recipe gives a slight twist to the old favorite. I recommend making this recipe right before you're ready to serve it so that the bubbles don't dissipate. 

Island Mimosa (Serves 8)
3 Cups Chilled Champagne
1 Cup Pineapple Juice
1/2 Cup Cranberry Juice

In a pitcher, add champagne, pineapple and cranberry juices. Using a spoon, gently mix together. (You don't want to over mix and release all of the champagne bubbles). Serve in champagne flutes. 

*Tip:If you want your drink to be more frothy, blend the pineapple and cranberry juice with some ice in a blender before adding the champagne!

Whether you decide to host a gathering of your own, celebrate with your own family or simply remember those special women that are no longer with us, I hope you all enjoy this special day.